The editors of Bloomberg urge the president to go to Ferguson:
Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Ferguson tomorrow. But the president should go, too — if not tomorrow then in the days or weeks ahead.
So why isn’t he? Obama said yesterday that his reluctance to say or do more reflects his reluctance to “put my thumb on the scales one way or the other” during a federal investigation. Undoubtedly he also is mindful of the backlash that greeted his remarks about the Henry Louis Gates contretemps five years ago and the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and he must also know that many Democrats, with the midterm elections looming, are wary of his making a comment or gesture that could alienate some white voters.
To which there is only one proper response: So what? This is a moment for the president to act. He can lead by helping to bring together a town riven by a tension sadly common in America — between a black community that feels disrespected and a police force that feels misunderstood. He can convene, listen and show that there is a messy, but peaceful way forward. If he succeeds in lowering temperatures, many Americans (including some Republicans) will be reminded why they voted for him 2008. If he doesn’t, many Americans may give him credit for trying.
while Todd Purdum of Politico explains why he shouldn’t:
Obama’s dilemma on Ferguson boiled down to whether he should issue a statement that would leave the shooting’s passionate critics unsatisfied, or say nothing at all and appear disengaged.
“The circumstances determine the reaction, and it isn’t appropriate for the president to speak up emotionally in the midst of an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in a telephone interview. “He wants the attorney general and his team to be able to conduct an independent investigation without any thumb on the scale one way or another. I think the president’s goal is to add his voice in a way that is calming, so the violence ends, and to send a message to the government officials on the ground about what his expectations are in terms of freedom to assemble, freedom of speech and freedom of the press — and also to signal to the people who have been looting and shooting that that’s not an acceptable way to honor the death of a young man.”
If the people of Ferguson are to be treated as ends rather than means, I think a better choice would be to use the millions that the president would spend in visiting Ferguson to fund the salaries of some additional, presumably black, police officers. Ferguson is a small community of very modest means and I sincerely doubt that it has the wherewithal to hire additional police officers on its own and, given its employment contracts, they’re not in a position to terminate any of their present officers in favor of replacements. The only practical ways they might bring on additional officers would be to federate with other small North County towns (which wouldn’t guarantee the outcome) or to find some additional funding.